Tuesday, 21 February, 16.00-17 pm: Maaike van Naerssen

‘Politeness’ in Dutch and Indonesian

Venue: Lipsius, 308

Alongside linguistics competence, communicative competence is essential to successfully participate in communication. Part of communicative competence is knowing what social conventions to abide to, when (not) to speak, and how to express yourself politely. But what strategies and conventions are considered socially appropriate seems by no means universal. What might be the correct way to behave in one language and (language) culture, is not necessarily thought to be polite (or even acceptable) in another. My research concentrates on verbal politeness strategies, and the problems cross-linguistic and –cultural pragmatic differences can cause. To that end I will make a contrastive analysis of two very different languages and cultures: Dutch and Indonesian. By analyzing visual recordings of natural conversations between native speakers I want to define several ‘situations’ or ‘speech events’, roughly corresponding to Searle’s category of directives, in which particular linguistic behavior is used which can be evaluated as polite. I think it is important to focus on the speech events and strategies used in them, and not to try and define ‘politeness markers’, since, as many have claimed, politeness is a social/interactional phenomenon, heavily depending on context and situational evaluations and not inherent to certain words or structures.

But before I can actually start analyzing my data, there are some problems I have to deal with first: what is politeness? what is culture? how and when and where do I find politeness? how do I know what I list as ‘polite’ corresponds to what native speakers perceive to be polite? I have some preliminary definitions and ideas about this that I would like to discuss with you. There are a lot of languages represented within the LUCL and I hope you will share your thoughts on how these theoretical concepts can best be described in the area you’re working on to the benefit of my research.